Metric system

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Four metric measuring devices: a tape measure in centimetres, a thermometer in degrees Celsius, a kilogram weight and a multimeter that measures volts, amperes and ohms FourMetricInstruments.JPG
Four metric measuring devices: a tape measure in centimetres, a thermometer in degrees Celsius, a kilogram weight and a multimeter that measures volts, amperes and ohms

The metric system is an internationally recognised decimalised system of measurement. It is in widespread use, and where it is adopted, it is the only or most common system of weights and measures (see metrication). It is now known as the International System of Units (SI). It is used to measure everyday things such as the mass of a sack of flour, the height of a person, the speed of a car, and the volume of fuel in its tank. It is also used in science, industry and trade.

A system of measurement is a collection of units of measurement and rules relating them to each other. Systems of measurement have historically been important, regulated and defined for the purposes of science and commerce. Systems of measurement in use include the International System of Units (SI), the modern form of the metric system, the imperial system, and United States customary units.


Metrication or metrification is conversion to the metric system of units of measurement. Worldwide, there has been a long process of independent conversions of countries from various local and traditional systems, beginning in France during the 1790s and spreading widely over the following two centuries, but the metric system has not been fully adopted in all countries and sectors.

International System of Units a system of units of measurement for base and derived physical quantities

The International System of Units is the modern form of the metric system, and is the most widely used system of measurement. It comprises a coherent system of units of measurement built on seven base units, which are the second, metre, kilogram, ampere, kelvin, mole, candela, and a set of twenty prefixes to the unit names and unit symbols that may be used when specifying multiples and fractions of the units. The system also specifies names for 22 derived units, such as lumen and watt, for other common physical quantities.


In its modern form, it consists of a set of base units including metre for length, kilogram for mass, second for time and ampere for electrical current, and a few others, which together with their derived units, can measure any physical quantity. Metric system may also refer to other systems of related base and derived units defined before the middle of the 20th century, some of which are still in limited use today.

A base unit is a unit adopted for measurement of a base quantity. A base quantity is one of a conventionally chosen subset of physical quantities, where no quantity in the subset can be expressed in terms of the others. The SI units, or Systeme International d'unites which consists of the metre, kilogram, second, ampere, Kelvin, mole and candela are base units.

Metre SI unit of length

The metre or meter is the base unit of length in the International System of Units (SI). The SI unit symbol is m. The metre is defined as the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum in 1/299 792 458 of a second.

The metric system was designed to have properties that make it easy to use and widely applicable, including units based on the natural world, decimal ratios, prefixes for multiples and sub-multiples, and a structure of base and derived units. It is also a coherent system, which means that its units do not introduce conversion factors not already present in equations relating quantities. It has a property called rationalisation that eliminates certain constants of proportionality in equations of physics.

The units of the metric system, originally taken from observable features of nature, are now defined by phenomena such as the microwave frequency of a caesium atomic clock which accurately measures seconds. One unit, the kilogram, remains defined in terms of a man-made artefact, but scientists recently voted to change the definition to one based on Planck's constant via a Kibble balance. The new definition is expected to be formally propagated on 20 May 2019.

Kibble balance experimental electromechanical weight measuring instrument

A Kibble balance or watt balance is an electromechanical measuring instrument that measures the weight of a test object very precisely by the electric current and voltage needed to produce a compensating force. It is a metrological instrument that can realize the new definition of the kilogram unit of mass based on fundamental constants, termed an electronic or electrical kilogram.

While there are numerous named derived units of the metric system, such as watt and lumen, other common quantities such as velocity and acceleration do not have their own unit, but are defined in terms of existing base and derived units such as metres per second for velocity.

Units of the British imperial system and the related US customary system are officially defined in terms of the metric system. Notably, as per the International Yard and Pound Agreement the base units of the Imperial and Customary system are defined in terms of the metre and kilogram.

Imperial units System of units formerly used in the British Empire and still used in the United Kingdom

The system of imperial units or the imperial system is the system of units first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824, which was later refined and reduced. The Imperial units replaced the Winchester Standards, which were in effect from 1588 to 1825. The system came into official use across the British Empire. By the late 20th century, most nations of the former empire had officially adopted the metric system as their main system of measurement, although some imperial units are still used in the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries formerly part of the British Empire. The imperial system developed from what were first known as English units, as did the related system of United States customary units.

United States customary units are a system of measurements commonly used in the United States. The United States customary system developed from English units which were in use in the British Empire before the U.S. became an independent country. However, the United Kingdom's system of measures was overhauled in 1824 to create the imperial system, changing the definitions of some units. Therefore, while many U.S. units are essentially similar to their Imperial counterparts, there are significant differences between the systems.

Kilogram SI unit of mass

The kilogram, also kilogramme, is the base unit of mass in the metric system, formally the International System of Units (SI), having the unit symbol kg. It is a widely used measure in science, engineering, and commerce worldwide, and is often called a kilo. The kilogram is almost exactly the mass of one litre of water.

The metric system is also extensible, and new base and derived units are defined as needed in fields such as radiology and chemistry. The most recent derived unit, the katal, for catalytic activity, was added in 1999. Recent changes are directed toward defining base units in terms of invariant constants of physics to provide more precise realisations of units for advances in science and industry.

The katal is the unit of catalytic activity in the International System of Units (SI). It is a derived SI unit for quantifying the catalytic activity of enzymes and other catalysts.


Base units

The modern metric system consists of four electromechanical base units representing seven fundamental dimensions of measure: length, mass, time, electromagnetism, thermodynamic temperature, luminous intensity, and quantity of substance. The units are:

Together they are sufficient for measuring any known quantity, [1] without reference to further quantities or phenomena.

The metre, ampere, candela, and mole are all defined in terms of other base units. For example, the speed of light is defined as 299,792,458 metres per second, and the metre is derived from that constant and the definition of a second. As a result, in dimensional analysis, they remain wholly separate concepts.

Derived units with special names

There are currently 22 derived units with special names in the metric system, these are defined in terms of the base units or other named derived units.

Eight of these units are electromagnetic quantities:

Four of these units are mechanical quantities:

Five units represent measures of electromagnetic radiation and radioactivity:

Two units are measures of circular arcs and spherical surfaces:

Three units are miscellaneous:

Auxiliary and accessory units

Although SI, as published by the CGPM, should, in theory, meet all the requirements of commerce, science, and technology, certain customary units of measure have acquired established positions within the world community. In order that such units are used consistently around the world, the CGPM catalogued such units in Tables 6 to 9 of the SI brochure. These categories are: [2]

The SI symbols for the metric units are intended to be identical, regardless of the language used [3] but unit names are ordinary nouns and use the character set and follow the grammatical rules of the language concerned. For example, the SI unit symbol for kilometre is "km" everywhere in the world, even though the local language word for the unit name may vary. Language variants for the kilometre unit name include: chilometro (Italian), Kilometer (German), [Note 1] kilometer (Dutch), kilomètre (French), χιλιόμετρο (Greek), quilómetro/quilômetro (Portuguese), kilómetro (Spanish) and километр (Russian). [4] [5]

Variations are also found with the spelling of unit names in countries using the same language, including differences in American English and British spelling. For example, meter and liter are used in the United States whereas metre and litre are used in other English-speaking countries. In addition, the official US spelling for the rarely used SI prefix for ten is deka. In American English the term metric ton is the normal usage whereas in other varieties of English tonne is common. Gram is also sometimes spelled gramme in English-speaking countries other than the United States, though this older usage is declining. [6]

In SI, the unit of power is the "watt", which is defined as "one joule per second". [7] In the US customary system of measurement the unit of power is the "horsepower", which is defined as "550-foot-pounds per second" (the pound in this context being the pound-force). [8] Similarly, neither the US gallon nor the imperial gallon is one cubic foot or one cubic yard— the US gallon is 231 cubic inches and the imperial gallon is 277.42 cubic inches. [9]

The concept of coherence was only introduced into the metric system in the third quarter of the 19th century; [10] in its original form the metric system was non-coherent—in particular the litre was 0.001 m3 and the are (from which the hectare derives) was 100 m2. However the units of mass and length were related to each other through the physical properties of water, the gram having been designed as being the mass of one cubic centimetre of water at its freezing point. [11]

Realisation of units

The metre was originally defined to be one ten millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Equator through Paris. Kilometre definition.svg
The metre was originally defined to be one ten millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Equator through Paris.

The base units used in the metric system must be realisable. Each of the definitions of the base units in SI is accompanied by a defined mise en pratique [practical realisation] that describes in detail at least one way in which the base unit can be measured. [13] Where possible, definitions of the base units were developed so that any laboratory equipped with proper instruments would be able to realise a standard without reliance on an artefact held by another country. In practice, such realisation is done under the auspices of a mutual acceptance arrangement (MAA). [14]

The standard metre is defined as exactly 1/299,792,458 of the distance that light travels in a second. The realisation of the metre depends in turn on precise realisation of the second. There are both astronomical observation methods and laboratory measurement methods that are used to realise units of the standard metre. Because the speed of light is now exactly defined in terms of the metre, more precise measurement of the speed of light does not result in a more accurate figure for its velocity in standard units, but rather a more accurate definition of the metre. The accuracy of the measured speed of light is considered to be within 1 m/s, and the realisation of the metre is within about 3 parts in 1,000,000,000, or an order of 10−9 parts.

The kilogram was defined by the mass of a man-made artefact of platinum-iridium held in a laboratory in France, until the new definition was introduced in May 2019. Replicas made in 1879 at the time of the artefact's fabrication and distributed to signatories of the Metre Convention serve as de facto standards of mass in those countries. Additional replicas have been fabricated since as additional countries have joined the convention. The replicas are subject to periodic validation by comparison to the original, called the IPK. It has become apparent that either the IPK or the replicas or both are deteriorating, and are no longer comparable: they have diverged by 50 μg since fabrication, so figuratively, the accuracy of the kilogram is no better than 5 parts in a hundred million or within an order of 10−8 parts. The accepted redefinition of SI base units replaces the IPK with an exact definition of Planck's constant, which defines the kilogram in terms of the second and metre.

Properties as a system

Although the metric system has changed and developed since its inception, its basic concepts have hardly changed. Designed for transnational use, it consisted of a basic set of units of measurement, now known as base units. Derived units were built up from the base units using logical rather than empirical relationships while multiples and submultiples of both base and derived units were decimal-based and identified by a standard set of prefixes.

Units based on the natural world

Like most units of measure, the units of the metric system were based on perceptual quantities of the natural world. But they also had definitions in terms of stable relationships in that world: a metre was defined not by the span of a man's arms like a toise, but on a quantitative measure of the earth. A kilogram was defined by a volume of water, whose linear dimensions were fractions of the unit of length. The earth was not easy to measure, nor was it uniformly shaped, but the principle that units of measure were to be based on quantitative relationships among invariant facets of the physical world was established. The units of the metric system today still adhere to that principle, but the relationships used are based on the physics of nature, rather than its sensory dimensions.

Base and derived unit structure

The metric system base units were originally adopted because they represented fundamental orthogonal dimensions of measurement corresponding to how we perceive nature: a spatial dimension, a time dimension, one for the effect of gravitation, and later, a more subtle one for the dimension of an "invisible substance" known as electricity or more generally, electromagnetism. One and only one unit in each of these dimensions was defined, unlike older systems where multiple perceptual quantities with the same dimension were prevalent, like inches, feet and yards or ounces, pounds and tons. Units for other quantities like area and volume, which are also spatial dimensional quantities, were derived from the fundamental ones by logical relationships, so that a unit of square area for example, was the unit of length squared.

Many derived units were already in use before and during the time the metric system evolved, because they represented convenient abstractions of whatever base units were defined for the system, especially in the sciences. So analogous units were scaled in terms of the metric units, and their names adopted into the system. Many of these were associated with electromagnetism. Other perceptual units, like volume, which were not defined in terms of base units, were incorporated into the system with definitions in the metric base units, so that the system remained simple. It grew in number of units, but the system retained a uniform structure.

Decimal ratios

Some customary systems of weights and measures had duodecimal ratios, which meant quantities were conveniently divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6. But it was difficult to do arithmetic with things like 14 pound or 13 foot. There was no system of notation for successive fractions: for example, 13 of 13 of a foot was not an inch or any other unit. But the system of counting in decimal ratios did have notation, and the system had the algebraic property of multiplicative closure: a fraction of a fraction, or a multiple of a fraction was a quantity in the system, like 110 of 110 which is 1100. So a decimal radix became the ratio between unit sizes of the metric system.

Prefixes for multiples and submultiples

In the metric system, multiples and submultiples of units follow a decimal pattern. [Note 2]

Metric prefixes in everyday use

A common set of decimal-based prefixes that have the effect of multiplication or division by an integer power of ten can be applied to units that are themselves too large or too small for practical use. The concept of using consistent classical (Latin or Greek) names for the prefixes was first proposed in a report by the French Revolutionary Commission on Weights and Measures in May 1793. [12] :89–96 The prefix kilo, for example, is used to multiply the unit by 1000, and the prefix milli is to indicate a one-thousandth part of the unit. Thus the kilogram and kilometre are a thousand grams and metres respectively, and a milligram and millimetre are one thousandth of a gram and metre respectively. These relations can be written symbolically as: [15]

1 mg = 0.001 g
1 km = 1000 m

In the early days, multipliers that were positive powers of ten were given Greek-derived prefixes such as kilo- and mega-, and those that were negative powers of ten were given Latin-derived prefixes such as centi- and milli-. However, 1935 extensions to the prefix system did not follow this convention: the prefixes nano- and micro-, for example have Greek roots. [16] During the 19th century the prefix myria-, derived from the Greek word μύριοι (mýrioi), was used as a multiplier for 10000. [17]

When applying prefixes to derived units of area and volume that are expressed in terms of units of length squared or cubed, the square and cube operators are applied to the unit of length including the prefix, as illustrated below. [15]

1 mm2 (square millimetre)= (1 mm)2 = (0.001 m)2 = 0.000001 m2
1 km2 (square kilometre) = (1 km)2= (1000 m)2= 1000000 m2
1 mm3 (cubic millimetre)= (1 mm)3= (0.001 m)3= 0.000000001 m3
1 km3 (cubic kilometre)= (1 km)3= (1000 m)3= 1000000000 m3

Prefixes are not usually used to indicate multiples of a second greater than 1; the non-SI units of minute, hour and day are used instead. On the other hand, prefixes are used for multiples of the non-SI unit of volume, the litre (l, L) such as millilitres (ml). [15]


James Clerk Maxwell played a major role in developing the concept of a coherent CGS system and in extending the metric system to include electrical units. James Clerk Maxwell.jpg
James Clerk Maxwell played a major role in developing the concept of a coherent CGS system and in extending the metric system to include electrical units.

Each variant of the metric system has a degree of coherence—the derived units are directly related to the base units without the need for intermediate conversion factors. [18] For example, in a coherent system the units of force, energy and power are chosen so that the equations


hold without the introduction of unit conversion factors. Once a set of coherent units have been defined, other relationships in physics that use those units will automatically be true. Therefore, Einstein's mass–energy equation, E = mc2, does not require extraneous constants when expressed in coherent units. [19]

The CGS system had two units of energy, the erg that was related to mechanics and the calorie that was related to thermal energy; so only one of them (the erg) could bear a coherent relationship to the base units. Coherence was a design aim of SI, which resulted in only one unit of energy being defined – the joule. [7]


Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism contained a factor relating to steradians, representative of the fact that electric charges and magnetic fields may be considered to emanate from a point and propagate equally in all directions, i.e. spherically. This factor appeared awkwardly in many equations of physics dealing with the dimensionality of electromagnetism and sometimes other things.

International System of Units

The International System of Units is the modern metric system. It is based on the Metre-Kilogram-Second-Ampere (MKSA) system of units from early in the 20th century. It also includes numerous coherent derived units for common quantities like power (watt) and irradience (lumen). Electrical units were taken from the International system then in use. Other units like those for energy (joule) were modeled on those from the older CGS system, but scaled to be coherent with MKSA units. Two additional base units, degree Kelvin equivalent to degree Celsius for thermodynamic temperature, and candela, roughly equivalent to the international candle unit of illumination, were introduced. Later, another base unit, the mole, a unit of mass equivalent to Avogadro's number of specified molecules, was added along with several other derived units.

The system was promulgated by the General Conference on Weights and Measures (French: Conférence générale des poids et mesures – CGPM) in 1960. At that time, the metre was redefined in terms of the wavelength of a spectral line of the krypton-86 [Note 3] atom, and the standard metre artefact from 1889 was retired.

Today, the International system of units consists of 7 base units and innumerable coherent derived units including 22 with special names. The last new derived unit, the katal for catalytic activity, was added in 1999. Some of the base units are now realised in terms of invariant constants of physics. As a consequence, the speed of light has now become an exactly defined constant, and defines the metre as 1299,792,458 of the distance light travels in a second. The kilogram remains defined by a man-made artefact of platinum-iridium, and it is deteriorating. The range of decimal prefixes has been extended to those for 1024, yotta, and 10−24, yocto, which are unfamiliar because nothing in our everyday lives is that big or that small.

The International System of Units has been adopted as the official system of weights and measures by all nations in the world except for Myanmar, Liberia, and the United States, while the United States is the only industrialised country where the metric system is not the predominant system of units. There are 192 countries that predominantly use the metric system and 3 that do not.

Historical variants

A number of variants of the metric system evolved, all using the Mètre des Archives and Kilogramme des Archives (or their descendants) as their base units, but differing in the definitions of the various derived units.

Variants of the metric system
Quantity CGS MKS MTS
distance, displacement,
length, height, etc.
(d, x, l, h, etc.)
centimetre (cm) metre (m)metre
mass (m) gram (g) kilogram (kg) tonne (t)
time (t) second (s)secondsecond
speed, velocity (v, v)cm/sm/sm/s
acceleration (a) gal (Gal) m/s2m/s2
force (F) dyne (dyn) newton (N) sthene (sn)
pressure (P or p) barye (Ba) pascal (Pa) pièze (pz)
energy (E, Q, W) erg (erg) joule (J)kilojoule (kJ)
power (P)erg/s watt (W)kilowatt (kW)
viscosity (μ) poise (P)Pa⋅spz⋅s

Gaussian second and the first mechanical system of units

In 1832, Gauss used the astronomical second as a base unit in defining the gravitation of the earth, and together with the gram and millimetre, became the first system of mechanical units.

The EMU, ESU and Gaussian systems of electrical units

Several systems of electrical units were defined following discovery of Ohm's law in 1824.

Centimetre–gram–second systems

The centimetre–gram–second system of units (CGS) was the first coherent metric system, having been developed in the 1860s and promoted by Maxwell and Thomson. In 1874, this system was formally promoted by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS). [20] The system's characteristics are that density is expressed in g/cm3, force expressed in dynes and mechanical energy in ergs. Thermal energy was defined in calories, one calorie being the energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water from 15.5 °C to 16.5 °C. The meeting also recognised two sets of units for electrical and magnetic properties – the electrostatic set of units and the electromagnetic set of units. [21]

International system of electrical units

The CGS units of electricity were cumbersome to work with. This was remedied at the 1893 International Electrical Congress held in Chicago by defining the "international" ampere and ohm using definitions based on the metre, kilogram and second. [22]

MKS and MKSA systems

In 1901, Giovanni Giorgi showed that by adding an electrical unit as a fourth base unit, the various anomalies in electromagnetic systems could be resolved. The metre–kilogram–second–coulomb (MKSC) and metre–kilogram–second–ampere (MKSA) systems are examples of such systems. [23]

The International System of Units (Système international d'unités or SI) is the current international standard metric system and is also the system most widely used around the world. It is an extension of Giorgi's MKSA system—its base units are the metre, kilogram, second, ampere, kelvin, candela and mole. [7] The MKS (Metre, Kilogram, Second) system came into existence in 1889, when artefacts for the metre and kilogram were fabricated according to the convention of the Metre. Early in the 20th century, an unspecified electrical unit was added, and the system was called MKSX. When it became apparent that the unit would be the ampere, the system was referred to as the MKSA system, and was the direct predecessor of the SI.

Metre–tonne–second systems

The metre–tonne–second system of units (MTS) was based on the metre, tonne and second – the unit of force was the sthène and the unit of pressure was the pièze. It was invented in France for industrial use and from 1933 to 1955 was used both in France and in the Soviet Union. [24] [25]

Gravitational systems

Gravitational metric systems use the kilogram-force (kilopond) as a base unit of force, with mass measured in a unit known as the hyl, Technische Masseneinheit (TME), mug or metric slug. [26] Although the CGPM passed a resolution in 1901 defining the standard value of acceleration due to gravity to be 980.665 cm/s2, gravitational units are not part of the International System of Units (SI). [27]

Conversion, calculation and symbol confusion incidents

The dual usage of or confusion between metric and non-metric units and confusion of metric symbols have resulted in a number of serious incidents. These include:

Conversion table

During its evolution, the metric system has adopted many units of measure. The introduction of SI rationalised both the way in which units of measure were defined and also the list of units in use. These are now catalogued in the official SI Brochure. [7] The table below lists the units of measure in this catalogue and shows the conversion factors connecting them with the equivalent units that were in use on the eve of the adoption of SI. [34] [35] [36] [37]

QuantityDimensionSI unit and symbolLegacy unit and symbolConversion
Time T second (s)second (s)1
Length L metre (m) centimetre (cm)
ångström (Å)
Mass M kilogram (kg) gram (g)0.001
Electric current I ampere (A) international ampere
abampere or biot
Temperature Θ kelvin (K)
degree Celsius (°C)
Celsius (°C)[K] = [°C] + 273.15
Luminous intensity J candela (cd) international candle 0.982
Amount of substance N mole (mol)No legacy unitn/a
Area L2 square metre (m2) are (a) [38] 100
Acceleration LT−2(m⋅s−2)gal (gal)10−2
Frequency T−1 hertz (Hz)cycles per second1
Energy L2MT−2 joule (J) erg (erg)10−7
Power L2MT−3 watt (W)(erg/s)
horsepower (hp)
Pferdestärke (PS)
Force LMT−2 newton (N) dyne (dyn)
sthene (sn)
kilopond (kp)
Pressure L−1MT−2 pascal (Pa) barye (Ba)
pieze (pz)
atmosphere (at)
Electric charge IT coulomb (C) abcoulomb
statcoulomb or franklin
Potential difference L2MT−3I−1 volt (V) international volt
Capacitance L−2M−1T4I2 farad (F)abfarad
Inductance L2MT−2I−2 henry (H) abhenry
Electric resistance L2MT−3I−2 ohm (Ω)international ohm
Electric conductance L−2M−1T3I2 siemens (S) international mho (℧)
Magnetic flux L2MT−2I−1 weber (Wb) maxwell (Mx)10−8
Magnetic flux density MT−2I−1 tesla (T) gauss (G)10−4
Magnetic field strengthIL−1(A/m) oersted (Oe)1034π = 79.57747
Dynamic viscosity ML−1T−1(Pa⋅s) poise (P)0.1
Kinematic viscosity L2T−1(m2⋅s−1) stokes (St)10−4
Luminous flux J lumen (lm) stilb (sb)104
Illuminance JL−2 lux (lx) phot (ph)104
[Radioactive] activity T−1 becquerel (Bq) curie (Ci)3.70×1010
Absorbed [radiation] dose L2T−2 gray (Gy) rad (rad)0.01
Radiation dose equivalent L2T−2 sievert roentgen equivalent man (rem)0.01
Catalytic activity NT−1 katal (kat) enzyme unit(U)1/60 μkat

The SI Brochure also catalogues certain non-SI units that are widely used with the SI in matters of everyday life or units that are exactly defined values in terms of SI units and are used in particular circumstances to satisfy the needs of commercial, legal, or specialised scientific interests. These units include: [7]

QuantityDimensionUnit and symbolEquivalence
Mass M tonne (t)1000 kg
Area L2 hectare (ha)0.01 km2
104 m2
Volume L3 litre (L or l)0.001 m3
Time T minute (min)
hour (h)
day (d)
60 s
3600 s
86400 s
Pressure L−1MT−2 bar 100 kPa
Plane angle none degree (°)
minute (′)
second (″)
(π180) rad
(π10800) rad
(π648000) rad

See also


  1. In German all nouns start with an upper-case letter
  2. Non-SI units for time and plane angle measurement, inherited from existing systems, are an exception to the decimal-multiplier rule
  3. A stable isotope of an inert gas that occurs in undetectable or trace amounts naturally

Related Research Articles

The centimetre–gram–second system of units is a variant of the metric system based on the centimetre as the unit of length, the gram as the unit of mass, and the second as the unit of time. All CGS mechanical units are unambiguously derived from these three base units, but there are several different ways of extending the CGS system to cover electromagnetism.

Measurement Process of assigning numbers to objects or events

Measurement is the assignment of a number to a characteristic of an object or event, which can be compared with other objects or events. The scope and application of measurement are dependent on the context and discipline. In the natural sciences and engineering, measurements do not apply to nominal properties of objects or events, which is consistent with the guidelines of the International vocabulary of metrology published by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. However, in other fields such as statistics as well as the social and behavioral sciences, measurements can have multiple levels, which would include nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio scales.

Metre Convention 1875 international treaty

The Metre Convention, also known as the Treaty of the Metre, is an international treaty that was signed in Paris on 20 May 1875 by representatives of 17 nations. The treaty created the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), an intergovernmental organization under the authority of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) and the supervision of the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM), that coordinates international metrology and the development of the metric system.

SI base unit one of the seven units of measurement that define the Metric System

The SI base units are seven units of measure defined by the International System of Units as a basic set from which all other SI units can be derived. The units and their physical quantities are the second for time, the metre for measurement of length, the kilogram for mass, the ampere for electric current, the kelvin for temperature, the mole for amount of substance, and the candela for luminous intensity.

SI derived units are units of measurement derived from the seven base units specified by the International System of Units (SI). They are either dimensionless or can be expressed as a product of one or more of the base units, possibly scaled by an appropriate power of exponentiation.

Volt SI derived unit of voltage

The volt is the derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference (voltage), and electromotive force. It is named after the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta (1745–1827).

Giovanni Giorgi Italian physicist and engineer

Giovanni Giorgi was an Italian physicist and electrical engineer who proposed the Giorgi system of measurement, the precursor to the International System of Units (SI).

The physical constant ε0, commonly called the vacuum permittivity, permittivity of free space or electric constant or the distributed capacitance of the vacuum, is an ideal, (baseline) physical constant, which is the value of the absolute dielectric permittivity of classical vacuum. It has the value

Ohm SI derived unit of electrical resistance

The ohm is the SI derived unit of electrical resistance, named after German physicist Georg Simon Ohm. Although several empirically derived standard units for expressing electrical resistance were developed in connection with early telegraphy practice, the British Association for the Advancement of Science proposed a unit derived from existing units of mass, length and time and of a convenient size for practical work as early as 1861. The definition of the ohm was revised several times. Today, the definition of the ohm is expressed from the quantum Hall effect.

The MKS system of units is a physical system of measurement that uses the metre, kilogram, and second (MKS) as base units.

The electrostatic system of units (ESU) is a system of units used to measure quantities of electric charge, electric current, and voltage within the centimeter-gram-second system of metric units. In electrostatic units, electrical charge is defined by the force that it exerts on other charges.

The International System of Electrical and Magnetic Units is an obsolete system of units used for measuring electrical and magnetic quantities. It was proposed as a system of practical international units by unanimous recommendation at the International Electrical Congress, discussed at other Congresses, and finally adopted at the International Conference on Electric Units and Standards in London in 1908. It was rendered obsolete by the inclusion of electromagnetic units in the International System of Units (SI) at the 9th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1948.

2019 redefinition of the SI base units Redefinition of the SI base units kilogram, ampere, kelvin, and mole

The 2019 redefinition of the SI base units came into force on 20 May 2019, the 144th anniversary of the Metre Convention. In the redefinition, four of the seven SI base units – the kilogram, ampere, kelvin, and mole – were redefined by setting exact numerical values for the Planck constant, the elementary electric charge, the Boltzmann constant, and the Avogadro constant, respectively. The second, metre, and candela were already defined by physical constants and were subject to correction to their definitions. The new definitions aimed to improve the SI without changing the value of any units, ensuring continuity with existing measurements. In November 2018, the 26th General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) unanimously approved these changes, which the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) had proposed earlier that year after determining that previously agreed conditions for the change had been met. These conditions were satisfied by a series of experiments that measured the constants to high accuracy relative to the old SI definitions, and were the culmination of decades of research.

The history of the metric system began in the Age of Enlightenment with simple notions of length and weight taken from natural ones, and decimal multiples and fractions of them. The system was so useful it became the standard of France and Europe in half a century. Other dimensions with unity ratios were added, and it went on to be adopted by the world.

Introduction to the metric system

The metric system was developed during the French Revolution to replace the various measures previously used in France. The metre is the unit of length in the metric system and was originally based on the dimensions of the earth, as far as it could be measured at the time. The litre, is the unit of volume and was defined as one thousandth of a cubic metre. The metric unit of mass is the kilogram and it was defined as the mass of one litre of water. The metric system was, in the words of French philosopher Marquis de Condorcet, "for all people for all time".

Outline of the metric system Overview of and topical guide to the metric system

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the metric system – various loosely related systems of measurement that trace their origin to the decimal system of measurement introduced in France during the French Revolution.

Coherence (units of measurement) derived unit that, for a given system of quantities and for a chosen set of base units, is a product of powers of base units with no other proportionality factor than one (International Vocabulary of Metrology)

A coherent system of units is a system of units based on a system of quantities in such a way that the equations between the numerical values expressed in the units of the system have exactly the same form, including numerical factors, as the corresponding equations between the quantities. Equivalently, it is a system in which every quantity has a unique unit, or one that does not use conversion factors.


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